The heroes, the wise men, like the new moon have their waxing and waning.— The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Moon is our most obvious and immediate celestial companion. It has inspired mystics for millennia and been the basis of countless calendars. Whether you look forward to its fullness or curse the light pollution of this “cold hearted orb that rules the night,” I suspect that for many stargazers, the Moon was our first astronomical love.
Half-grown moon,— Emmanuel Isuku, Half-Grown Moon
How do you manage
to forge a smile in the dark
Maybe it’s pedestrian to adore Earth’s satellite. I mean, it’s right there. Other than targets like the International Space Station, it’s the nearest thing you can look at. The Moon doesn’t take much work or special equipment to find. It’s visible all year long as it progresses through its phases.
I’d argue these are factors in the Moon’s favor. The Moon is constant and comforting. Its features are captivating, especially along the terminator between dark and light. It’s an easy and satisfying target.
When stargazing evangelists wheel their light-bucket Dobsonians outside for sidewalk astronomy, what view do they choose to delight passersby? The Moon.
Ah yes, old Moon, what things you've seen!— Robert William Service, Moon Song
Depending on its phase, the Moon might ruin your hunt for deep sky objects or your astrophotography plans, but it gives you something interesting and awe-inspiring to look at, at any (or no) magnification.
The moon is like a scimitar,— Sara Teasdale, Dusk in Autumn
A little silver scimitar,
A-drifting down the sky.
And near beside it is a star,
A timid twinkling golden star,
That watches likes an eye.
A friend routinely texts me his lunar photos. He sets up his scope in the late afternoon when the Moon is waxing toward full and gets up early to train his telescope on the Moon — and frequently on Venus as well — as it wanes.
Given that the skies in Portland have been overcast since the beginning of time — or so it seems — and even clear nights are hazy and bright lately, I started setting reminders to check the sunny daytime skies for a lunar-gazing respite.
The moon— Yone Noguchi, Upon the Heights
Slowly rose: my shadow on the ground
Dreamily began a dreamy roam,
And I upward smiled silent welcome.
It felt serendipitous when one of the cats fell from a high shelf and knocked the red dot finder off of my 90mm StarMax. (Both the cat and equipment were unharmed!) On a Sunday morning, I set up in the driveway and pointed the StarMax at the top of a telephone pole to align the finder.
A neighbor stopped at the end of the drive.
“What are you looking at in the daylight?” he asked with genuine bafflement. His little dog raced up the driveway and ran circles around me as I explained about the red dot finder alignment. Then I gestured toward the ghost-like half-Moon, barely visible in the pale blue sky.
“Okay, good,” he replied, “because I was wondering if you’d lost your mind.” As he corralled the dog, he lamented the increasing light pollution in Portland and the weight of GoTo telescopes, then went on his way.
The moon, like to a silver bow new bent in heaven.— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Even against the daytime sky, the Moon is an arresting sight. I don’t know the names of the craters and plains, but when I gaze through the telescope eyepiece, I feel like an astronaut making my approach or an ancient astronomer trying to unlock the Moon’s secrets.
As space programs turn again to the Moon, there will be renewed curiosity here on the ground — and opportunities to learn and even participate. Through the Writers on the Moon program, digital copies of my books are headed to Lacus Mortis on Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, tentatively scheduled for launch (fingers crossed) later this year. I may never touch the lunar surface, but I’ll have a tiny presence there all the same.
Not twenty minutes after I packed up the StarMax, wispy clouds drifted in and obscured the third-quarter Moon. It turned out to be another overcast night, but I have my reminders to look for Luna again as she waxes and wanes.
The child's wonder— Carl Sandburg, Child Moon
At the old moon
Comes back nightly.
She points her finger
To the far silent yellow thing
Shining through the branches
Filtering on the leaves a golden sand,
Crying with her little tongue, "See the moon!"
And in her bed fading to sleep
With babblings of the moon on her little mouth.
I love the Moon. I’m thinking maybe you do, too.